Carl Icahn, a newly named adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, said Thursday that burdensome US regulations were hindering free enterprise, and oil refining in particular.
In an interview with CNBC, Icahn, the famed Wall Street activist investor, also suggested he would help push the new Trump administration towards broad-based deregulation, as he is widely expected to do.
Trump said Wednesday that he had named Icahn, 80, as his special advisor to overhaul “strangling regulations.”
Icahn has significant investments in the energy sector, including the Texas oil refiner CVR Energy, which suffered heavily in recent years as energy prices declined but could stand to gain from an anti-regulation agenda.
In the interview aired Thursday, Icahn said that, under President Barack Obama the United States was “on a fast track to socialism” and businesses suffered under an “absurd regulatory environment.”
“I’m not against regulations at all. I sort of believe that you need a rule of law,” Icahn said. “But it’s become literally absurd in many areas.”
“There good companies, good CEOS, as there are good regulators,” he added. “There are some that are completely absurd…. Frankly, you almost get enraged by some of the stuff.”
He pointed to rules under the Environmental Protection Agency governing oil refineries, asserting that gasoline prices were tied to production limits at refineries on the eastern coast of the United States.
Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry and climate change denier, to lead the EPA.
“You have to have healthy refineries,” Icahn said Thursday. “There are refineries on the brink of bankruptcy today.”
In a statement on Thursday, the organization Friends of the Earth said Icahn’s new role in the Trump administration showed that the president-elect was building a “kleptocracy” that would steal from the public and give to the well-connected.
“Once again Donald Trump has chosen a billionaire who will make himself rich at the expense of the American people,” Ben Schreiber, the organization’s climate director, said in a statement.
“Carl Icahn’s vast fossil fuel holdings should disqualify him from any role in reviewing regulations designed to protect public health and the environment.”